Family Matters National Week of Take Action (9-15 May) is a national campaign to raise public awareness and political commitment, and to make sure all our children grow up strong in family, culture and community. The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home-care is almost 10 times that of other children and sadly, continues to grow. 

The Benevolent Society are Strategic Alliance members of Family Matters and part of the movement for change; to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia's child protection by 2040. Over the next week, we’ll meet some of our practitioners who share how they connect Indigenous children with family, culture and community and how we can influence change.

Meet Sharman Backhouse

Sharman is a Child & Family Practitioner based in Cairns South, QLD. She offers support to Indigenous families enrolled at our kindergartens in Northern QLD. She also supports ‘Indy for Kindy’ sessions that have been running for almost eight years, aimed to prepare children for kindergarten and build on their independence. 
“I spend a lot of time getting to know the kids and interacting with the family carer and other children in the family. I help with school readiness, early intervention and bridge support services that are available to the broader community,” said Sharman.

“We also have a Speech and Occupational Therapist on site to help those families as well, before they get through the formal schooling doors,” she added.

This year’s theme is ‘Our Mobs Matter’

Sharman believes Indigenous children need to understand their identity to grow up strong in family, culture and community. When speaking with families, she finds out who their mob are and who in their family they can talk to if they’re struggling.
 
“Knowing who you are and where you come from is central to that feeling of belonging. It’s a human response to feel part of something, having pride; and knowing your strengths. Without this, it makes it harder for families when dealing with life issues,” Sharman said.

Through a partnership with Wuchopperen, families can join ‘Yarn and Craft’ group. “It’s an invaluable way to connect with Indigenous mothers over a yarn and create a safe space that helps build rapport and trust. Mothers talk with other women in the group that can help them in the community,” she said.

How we can influence change

The number of Indigenous children being removed from their families is escalating and our people, have the power to influence change through the work we do. “Families know they can lean on us when times are tough or feeling overwhelmed, which help them avoid defaulting to more negative choices,” said Sharman. 

“I help families achieve their goals by providing them direction when it comes to decision making, reminding them of how important their goals are and helping them close that gap,” she added.

You can take action this week by visiting the Family Matter’s website to register and watch one of their online events. You’ll hear from a great line-up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family practitioners, sharing practical ways to help Indigenous families and children and discussions about the real issues. You can also sign up to the Family Matters pledge to show your support.